Are you looking for the best guitar amps for metal? This article will help to demystify the amplifier market, especially for those that are metal guitarists.
High-gain and heavily distorted guitar tones are the most important things to look for in a good metal amp.
Many metal guitarists prefer to use natural amp distortion over stomp box distortion pedals. Because of this, an amplifier needs to be able to accommodate not only loud volumes and high gain situations but also be able to produce more than enough natural distortion for any scenario a metal guitarist can throw at it.
The amplifiers covered will range from the best budget models, the best combo amp, and best practice amp to the best overall. Some of the amplifiers mentioned include:
- Boss Katana 100 MKII
- Orange Micro Dark
- Marshall DSL20C
- Peavey Invective 120 Amp Head
- PRS MT 15 Tremonti
- Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister Triamp MKIII
Best Beginner’s Amp for Metal – Boss Katana 100 MKII
- 5 Amp Types
- 60 Boss Effects
- 100 Watts
- 12” speaker
While many beginner guitarists buy their first guitar amp out of necessity (usually with whatever is available), doing some research beforehand is the wise move.
Ideally, a great beginner amp can provide the basics and have a bit of growing room available for the guitarist to grow into.
The Boss Katana amplifier series has made serious waves amongst guitarists in recent years,. The Boss Katana 100 MKII is an excellent example of these popular amplifiers.
While it is not a tube amp, it is a highly functioning amp modeler that can accommodate any musical style.
This solid-state combo amplifier has a 12” speaker (meaning you won’t need to have a separate speaker cabinet) and 100-watts of output.
There are 5 different amp channels for sounds of other amps and over 60 Boss effect pedals programmed into the amplifier. There are even capabilities to record the amplifier directly via a USB port.
- Well-adaptive and accommodating to any music genre
- 5 different amplifier types onboard
- Over 60 programmed Boss effects pedals
- Extremely affordable
- Not a tube amplifier for those that are looking for tube-only options
Best Combo Amp for Metal – Marshall DSL20
- Classic Marshall Rock & Metal Tones
- 20 Watts Switchable to 10 Watts
- 12" Celestion Seventy 80 speaker
- Softube emulated output for recording and practicing
Combo amplifiers can be efficient by saving transportation space and setup time. The Marshall DSL20C is a very affordable yet highly potent combo amplifier, making it one of the best combo amps for metal on the market.
This tube combo amp has 2x EL34 and 3x ECC83 tubes and a 12” Celestion Seventy 80 speaker that helps provide a punchy tone.
Use the attenuator to switch the Marshall DLS20C from 20-watts of output to 10-watts. Overall, this amp boasts many of the iconic Marshall tones at a serious fraction of the cost of its higher-priced siblings.
- Classic Marshall tones in a small package
- An attenuator can switch output from 20 watts to 10 watts, allowing for use in smaller spaces
- Includes channel selector footswitch
- Might not be heavy enough for modern metal styles.
Best Small Practice Amp for Metal – Orange Micro Dark
- Small & Portable
- Headphone output
- 20 Watts
Orange has been crafting iconic premium amplifiers since the late 1960s. The Orange Micro Dark is a popular budget friendly amp.
As this is only an amplifier head, guitarists will also need to have a speaker cabinet, which may cost over your budget depending on your choice.
Regardless, the Orange Micro Dark is perhaps the best amplifier for metal available on the market that can be a great practice amp. This 20-watt micro amp head is a hybrid amp with solid-state technology and a 1x 12AX7 tube preamp.
Perhaps the most attractive thing about this amp (aside from its price) is the fact that it has a headphone jack, making it perfect for guitar practice at any hour of the day or night.
This amp is ideal for bedroom practices, band practices, and even small club spaces. It has a fair amount of gain available and plays well with guitar pedals.
- Extremely affordable
- Small and easily portable
- Headphone output, making it ideal for home practice
- Can likely accommodate band practices and small club performances
- The amp might not be as flexible as other amps on the market
- Requires additional speaker cabinet
Best Mini Head Amp for Metal – PRS MT15
- 15/7 Watts (Switchable)
- 2 Channels
- 6L6 Power Tubes
- Includes Channel Footswitch & Amp Cover
The PRS MT 15 Tremonti amplifier (artist model of Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge and Creed) takes the prize for the best mini head amplifier available on the market today.
Designed to Tremonti’s specifications the amp has a clean channel and a lead channel that can provide premium distorted tones. To accommodate smaller rooms switch the amp from 15-watts of output to 7-watts.
Inside the amp are 2x 6L6 and 6x EC83S tubes.
The steel housing protects the internal components of the PRS MT 15. Viewing holes on the housing, with the LED lights emit a blue hue when the clean channel is engaged and red for the lead channel.
- Affordable amplifier with high-end capabilities
- The lead channel has excellent distortion tones
- Aesthetic appeal with LED lights based on the channel being used
- Solid build and small form factor
- An attenuator allows for the amp to be used in smaller spaces
- Guitarists may need to have more output power.
- No built-in reverb.
Best Amplifier Head for Modern Metal – Peavey Invective 120
- 120 Watts
- 3 Switchable Channels
- Independent Pre and Post Gain controls on Lead and Crunch channels
- Lead/Crunch channel input Noise Gate
Peavey has been making workhorse amps for years, and the Peavey Invective 120 Amp Head is no exception to this. This amp is essentially a modernized version of Peavey’s 6505 amp, as it has been modified to fit the needs and demands of modern musicians. Not to mention that Misha Mansoor of the band Periphery played a vital role in this update.
The Peavey Invective 120 has 3 channels, each with pre/post gain control. While the 6 stages of distortion this amplifier can create could be considered quite sublime, the amp also boasts a very effective clean channel.
The amp is stocked with 6x 12AX7A tubes and 4x 6L6 tubes, which can be swapped out for several different tube types to change the characteristics of the amp sound. Other tube types compatible include KT66, KT88, 6550, 6CA7, and EL84.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the Peavey Invective 120 also allows for use with a MIDI device as well as 9 presets that can be programmed to the guitarist’s preferences (switchable by footswitch). As far as amp heads in this price range go, guitarists will be hardpressed to find a more comprehensive amplifier.
- Feature-laden amp that can accommodate any metal guitarist
- Switchable tube options furthering the sonic palette of the amp
- Sublime distorted tones and an exceptional clean tone
- Programmable presets and MIDI control
- This amp head can be a bit cumbersome to haul as it weighs in at 50 pounds.
- It may not be the most affordable amp for some budgets.
Best Overall Amp for Metal – Hughes & Kettner Triamp MKIII
- 150 Watts
- 6 Channels
- Footswitch included
- Red Box DI output with Ambience Emulation
- Onboard noise gate
For metal guitarists looking for a fully immersive and comprehensive amplifier, the Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister Triamp MKIII is an excellent option. This highly flexible programmable amp can accommodate any metal guitarist’s playing styles and tone preferences.
The amp itself features 6 different channels that have amp characteristics based on iconic amp sounds from the 1950s to the 1990s, which can be routed into the amps different power tube sections, ultimately providing over 40 different unique amplifier sounds.
Inside the 150-watt amp are 2x 6L6 tubes and 2x EL34 tubes, which can be swapped for 5881, 7581, KT66, KT88, KT77, or 6CA7 tubes. The amplifier automatically biases the tubes to ensure optimum output and performance.
The Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister Triamp MKIII also features a DI out and the capability for MIDI footswitch control (which comes with the amp) to easily switch between 128 different amp settings with a simple push of a button.
To top it all off, the Grandmeister Triamp MKIII features the signature blue lighting that has become synonymous with Hughes & Kettner amps. An amplifier cover is also a bonus.
- Highly flexible amp
- Programmable with a large palette of sounds available
- MIDI footswitch comes with amp, allowing for easy changing of amplifier settings
- Amp cover comes with amp
- Likely out of the price range of most budgets
- Some may not prefer to have a programmable amplifier
Amplifiers play an essential role in every guitarist’s rig. The sound will likely be dictated by how good the amp sounds. For metal guitarists, this is especially true since this style of music demands high-gain and highly distorted tones.
Best Metal Amp Heads
Whatever your budget you will find a decent amplifier. The Orange Micro Dark is a strong workhorse that can likely suit this need for those looking for the best practice amplifier available. A built-in headphone port allows for practice at any time of the day or night.
The amp with the best value is by far the PRS MT 15 Tremonti. This solidly-built lunchbox-sized amp head has exquisite distortion tones available on tap. Guitarists can switch from 15-watt output to 7-watt output to accommodate any room.
For those in the market for the best amplifier head, the Peavey Invective 120 is a feature-laden programmable amp that can likely suit any guitarists’ needs. Misha Mansoor of the band Periphery had a vital role in modernizing this version of the classic Peavey 6505 amp. Several different tube sets can also be utilized to take on other amp characteristics.
By far, the best amplifier on the market for metal music is the Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister Triamp MK III. This is a fully immersive programmable tube amplifier that has seemingly limitless amounts of sonic possibilities. One of the best parts of this amp is the ability to switch between 128 programmable presets via a MIDI footswitch.
Best Metal Combo Amps
The best combo amplifier for metal is the Marshall DSL20C. Not only is this amp affordable, but it also provides the Marshall tones that the company is so well-known for.
For beginner guitarists, the Boss Katana 100 MKII is a perfect amplifier. This modeler amp sounds great, and can be used in almost any musical setting. There is definite longevity with this amp that can likely serve a beginner for a long time.
No matter what amp you choose, it is essential to try these out for yourself and hear how they sound to your ear. Your tone is your musical fingerprint, and buying an amplifier (especially those at the higher end of the budget scale) should not be taken lightly.
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